News Releases

Murray Joins Coalition of 40 Senators Urging HHS to Release Winter Heat Aid

Nov 06 2013

Senators urge the immediate release of funds to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to ensure that Washington state families receive aid in time for winter

Over 84,000 Washington state households participate in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

(Washington, DC) - In an effort to help millions of Americans who are struggling with their energy bills as winter approaches, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) joined a bipartisan group of 40 U.S. Senators in calling on the Obama Administration to release federal heating aid funds.

The Senators sent a bipartisan letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius urging her to release Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds as quickly and at as high a level as possible.  Recently, the Senators worked to include language in the continuing resolution to fund LIHEAP at the higher Fiscal Year 2012 enacted level of $3.47 billion.  Unfortunately, this funding remains subject to automatic, across the board sequestration cuts, which Senator Murray opposes and supports addressing.   

This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “On average low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.”

Recently, the U.S. Energy Information Administration released their Winter Fuels Outlook report, which projects that household expenditures for natural gas, propane, and electric heating will be higher this winter.  Home heating oil prices are expected to be modestly lower.  The report also noted that the Northeast is expected to be 3% colder than the previous winter. Eligibility for LIHEAP is based on income, family size, and the availability of resources.

The letter was also signed by Senators Jack Reed (D-RI), Susan Collins (R-ME), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Edward Markey (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Robert P Casey, Jr (D-PA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Mark Begich (D-AK), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Mary L. Landrieu (R-LA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher S. Murphy (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Christopher A. Coons (D-DE), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Angus King (I-ME), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Al Franken (D-MN), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Joe Manchin III (D-WV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).

Full text of the Senators’ letter below:

Dear Secretary Sebelius:

As state agencies prepare their Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) programs for the winter, we respectfully request that the Department of Health and Human Services release LIHEAP funds as quickly and at as high of a level as possible under the current continuing resolution.

LIHEAP is the main federal program that helps low-income households and seniors with their energy bills, providing critical assistance during the cold winter and hot summer months. This funding has been an indispensable lifeline during challenging economic times, helping to ensure that recipients do not have to choose between paying their energy bills and paying for other necessities like food or medicine. On average low-income families and seniors spend a higher proportion of their income on energy, and for many states, October marks the start of the heating season, creating an additional constraint on these household budgets.

As the relevant state agencies begin to provide assistance for this winter, it is critical that they have the resources to assist low-income households and seniors as soon as possible. Therefore, we request that you quickly release LIHEAP funds and at as high of a level as possible in order to allow states and low-income households to prepare for the upcoming season.   

We look forward to continuing to work with you on this critical program, and thank you for your attention to our concerns and those of our constituents.